Maureen Lee Lenker
November 26, 2017 AT 12:40 PM EST

Some fans will never let go of the possibility that there was room enough for both Jack and Rose on that door at the end of Titanic.

Director James Cameron has an explanation for them that doesn’t involve physics, but rather art. “Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless,” he said in a recent Vanity Fair interview. “The film is about death and separation; he had to die.”

Cameon continued, “The answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies,” Cameron explained. “Very simple. … Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him … I think it’s all kind of silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later. But it does show that the film was effective in making Jack so endearing to the audience that it hurts them to see him die.”

Cameron also said that whether Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) died in the water or by some other tragic accident, there was no way he was going to make it to the end of the film with Rose (Kate Winslet). “Whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down. It’s called art, things happen for artistic reasons, not for physics reasons,” the filmmaker said.

When pushed further about the possible physics of the situation, Cameron said he “very finely tuned” the scenario to be plausible and accurate. “I was in the water with the piece of wood putting people on it for about two days getting it exactly buoyant enough so that it would support one person with full free-board, meaning that she wasn’t immersed at all in the 28-degree water so that she could survive the three hours it took until the rescue ship got there,” he said. “[Jack] didn’t know that she was gonna get picked up by a lifeboat an hour later; he was dead anyway. And we very, very finely tuned it to be exactly what you see in the movie because I believed at the time, and still do, that that’s what it would have taken for one person to survive.”

This is not the first time Cameron has addressed the issue of Jack’s death. Back in January, Cameron stood by his script and said the Mythbusters crew were “full of s—” for their scientific determination that the door was large (and buoyant) enough to hold two people.

Cameron may prefer that we leave this debate at the bottom of the ocean, but for some, when it comes to Jack and Rose, their hearts will go on.

Read Cameron’s full Vanity Fair interview here.

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